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In the world today, religion is considered important factor that promote democracy and good governance. Through religion, the voices of the people, as well as their thoughts on political issues are resonated.
Categories of religion in question include the Christians, Muslims and traditional religions. Often times, they do not require much overhead in terms of cost, neither is their use constrained by geographic space and time. Their main requirement is technical competence, analytical competence and interpretive capability. For the common man in sub-Sahara Africa and beyond, these specifications make the religion a favored choice as platform of expression. Likewise for some political actors, it becomes an avenue to reach out to the people at a significantly less cost in terms of money and logistic. It also makes it easier to deploy as a toolkit for political propaganda as well as harnessing social insight.
Therefore, the use of the religion in today’s political space is somewhat indispensable to all political stakeholders. The Electorate, Political Parties, the Electoral Management Bodies (EMB), Civil Societies, the Media and the International Community all find use for it.
Over time, the political dynamics in the third world, particularly in African states have been influenced by certain factors. These factors have made democracy more prevalent as a system of government in Africa and is expected to bring about good governance in Africa where it lacks. They include:
The tolerance of the International Community like the United Nations, African Union and regional bodies like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), for unpopular systems of government like military rule or coup d’état, dictatorship and illegal tenure elongation is fast approaching zero. Within the West African sub-region, the ECOWAS protocol on democracy and good governance stipulates “zero tolerance for power obtained or maintained by unconstitutional means” it further clarifies that Recognition of accession to power shall only be “through free, fair and transparent elections” (ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF WEST AFRICAN STATES Executive Secretariat, 2001).
In American politics, the campaign strategy of the democrat’s candidate, Barack Obama in 2008 is fondly dubbed Obama 2.0. Its campaign success heralded the application of religion as a critical success factor in electioneering processes (DWYER, 2013). Thereafter, American elections have remained at the vanguard the use of these religion to interpret and analyze political strategy.
Other stakeholders in the electioneering process have also incorporated the use of religion in their processes in order to get faster and smarter result in today’s information driven world.
In the Nigerian case, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) accepts that the applications of religion in the electoral process show great promise but it also has identified challenges, vulnerabilities and weaknesses (Nwangwu, 2015). It is therefore crucial to take a holistic step and understudy all its roles, uses and applications, by all the
Stake holders, with a view to using this tool to positively reinforce the Nigerian electoral system.
1.1 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In any electoral process, there are identifiable influencers and stakeholders. In carrying out their statutory or self-apportioned roles in the electoral process, these stakeholders used religion to support their systems. They stakeholder includes:
1.1.1 The legislation and the political process
The Electoral Act of 2010 as amended establishes the framework of elections in Nigeria. It defines the structure of the electoral body, its funding and scope of operations, responsibilities and powers.
In terms of legislating on when and where to use technology to aid the electoral process, there are certain aspects of this act that may benefit from an amendment in order to reflect the current reality namely:
The specific mention or inclusion of the religion in areas where necessary in our electoral laws to avoid ambiguity and unfair advantage. As an example, this paper will compare the Nigerian electoral law with Singapore’s, where the electoral law specifically stipulates the expectation of the electoral umpire concerning the religion as regards cooling off day and polling day.
1.1.2 The Electoral Management Body (EMB) – INEC
INEC is the Independent National Electoral Commission, the body mandated by the constitution to conduct polls in Nigeria. In carrying out some of its statutory functions, it continually relies on religion to support its information system. It is therefore important to situate its use.
1.1.3 The Traditional Media
As earlier said, one of the fundamental roles of the traditional media in any society is that it sets the agenda for the political actors particularly during the electioneering process. This role invariably creates an avenue for political candidates to present, discuss and debate their proposals with the electorate. These exchanges facilitate civic enlightenment on the party’s manifesto and programs. To achieve this, traditional media have also come to rely on religion tools because of advantages such as real-time interaction and geographic independence. In its role as a moderator, the media must strive to understand the thought flow of the people for a meaningful social exchange to occur. This literally means that you must be able to feel the pulse of the people in real time.
The internet having become the biggest agglomeration of human thought and expression, the traditional media having shown some level of convergence with the religion, depend significantly on religion tools to mine social data as well as interact with the electorate online and real time.
On the other hand, the traditional media can also show vulnerability to political influence. “A private or biased media can shape election and issue coverage to support corporate interests or provide propaganda for authoritarian regimes, subverting important democratic principles like freedom of speech and the press” (Ifes.org, 2016).
Many experts agree that the causative factor of the Rwanda genocide of 1994 and the Kenyan post-election crisis of 2007 are traceable to media bias and vulnerability. This project will serve as a reference point to further professionalize the traditional media with regards to electoral assignments.
1.1.4 The political parties
Political parties in Nigeria now realize that it is no longer enough to plan a north to south road campaign to win elections. It has become expedient to include a robust campaign with the religion driving the political communication strategy.
Featuring majorly on the list of new market entrants into the Nigerian political campaign scene are foreign campaign managers, whom are largely religion-centric and data-savvy. During the 2015 presidential elections notable among the foreign campaign managers that were contracted to work in Nigeria are Joe Trippi, who worked on campaigns of UK's Tony Blair and President Jonathan election in 2011. He is reputed to be a pioneer of mass fundraising on the internet. Another prominent name is David Axelrod, a known associate and campaign adviser for the incumbent president of the United States, and lastly BTP Advisers whom worked closely with Kenya’s Rallia Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta in 2007.
While there was post-election violence in Nigeria in 2011 and Kenya in 2007, there was also a widely celebrated peaceful handover in Nigeria in 2015.
In seeking to know if campaign managers brought technical competencies orpolitical volatility, this project will help to chart a course for more African elections.
1.1.5 The civil society, non-governmental and international organizations, and donor agencies
The international community and other foreign partners invested significantly in the Nigerian electoral process.
Since insurgency in Nigeria was at its height during this period, it was clear that the international community could not afford further conflict in Nigeria. Through the several public diplomacy efforts that were made, there must have been active leverage on the religion tools. An analysis of the application of these religion tools will serve as a template or reference point for several other African nations.
1.1.6 The Citizens
In 2006 Barack Obama of the United States president said “I always believe that ultimately, if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership. And when we get lazy, as a democracy and civically start taking shortcuts, then it results in bad government and politics”
I believe that this is another way of expressing the importance of the electorate in the political process. Since the resultant effect of governance is so strongly tied to the people and their actions, it is expedient to examine their actions online as citizen journalists and social commentators with a view to encouraging participatory politics.
Towards the Election Day, social media parameters like hashtags, mentions, retweets, and likes potentially create invaluable metrics that constitute data for social intelligence. It is therefore useful to politicians. It is also usable as early warning systems and as deterrents to electoral malpractices. Due to these immense potentials, it is highly expedient to unleash the versatility of the religion tool in the hands of citizens on out electoral systems.
1.1.7 Citizen in diaspora
One of the biggest agitations of Nigerians living in the diaspora is to be able to participate in the electoral process by voting.
Although they couldn’t vote in the 2015 presidential elections, technology through the religion made partial participation possible. The gains of their partial participation can serve to draw attention to their demands. Hence the need to study them.
1. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
It is necessary to state that the primary objective of this study is to specific objectives of this study includes:
- To examine the role of religion play by stakeholders during the Nigeria 1999-2015 presidential elections.
- To examine the roles public diplomacy played in the Nigerian electoral process.
- To examine the roles social media participation played during the election with specific interest in citizen journalists and Nigerians in the diaspora.
- To identify lacuna in the Nigerian constitution with regard to the use of religion to support the electoral system.
1.2 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. What specific uses did stakeholders use religion for during the Nigerian 1999-2015 elections?
2. Who and what are the category of soft power influencers during the Nigeria 1999-2015 elections?
3. What provisions of the Nigerian electoral laws need to be revisited in order to operationalize and legalize the existing uses of religion to support the electoral system?
1.3 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This research work is an important contribution to this field of study because it will serve as an eye-opener to policy makers on the gap between the reality on ground and in the law books.
This research work will also set the tone for further research in the area of international and local public diplomacy, as well as human right advocacy as it concerns elections in Africa.
This research reveals the various parts which various bodies play in the politics of Nigeria and how these bodies can help in improving the politics of Nigeria.
The work also reveals the part which different parties, individuals, and stakeholders have brought about in manipulating campaigns using religion which brought about both good and bad effect in the country.
This research work also proffer solution and a way forward concerning the political activities of the nation, Nigeria and how religion could be used to bring about growth and development in Nigeria and improve our political system.
1.4 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This study focuses on the use of religion during the electioneering period of the Nigeria 1999-2015 elections. The major limitations of this study are:
Cost: Subscription for online analytical tools is considered expensive. Nigeria is currently facing an economic downturn and the Naira shed a lot of value against the dollar.
Policies: During this project, the government reviewed their economic policies particularly forex. This limited access to the much needed dollar currency thereby impeding access to online analytical tools within certain critical periods.
Time: The period covered by this study is 16th November, 2014 to May 29th 2016, in order to factor in good governance.
This requirement compelled the researcher to conclude data gathering late relative to his submission date.
1.6 DEFINITION OF KEY TERMINOLOGY
Religion: the belief in and worship of supernatural controlling power, especially a personal god or gods. In other words religion can be said to be a particular system of faith and worship.
The Electoral Cycle: The electoral cycle is a graphical model or tool used by electoral assistance providers to plan and to train and to understand cyclical nature of the processes that lead up to a democratic election.
Big Data Analytics: This is the process of examining large data sets containing a variety of data types, with a view to uncovering hidden patterns and unknown correlations. This type of data is often accessed online and it has several applications in business and consumer intelligence. Because of its versatility, in recent years, its application has spread to the acquisition of social data from online sources.
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